I have a writer-friend on livejournal whom I used to speak with all the time over IM. For months, I built her up, tried to be her friend, brainstormed with her, wrote fics of her stuff, etc. But she had this constant need for validation — this constant, needy neediness that I couldn’t handle, anymore. That I couldn’t process. That I couldn’t deal with constructively on top of my own mental health issues that have held me back for so long.

So I cut IM contact with her. Remained her friend on LJ. Still read (and occasionally comment) on her stuff. And now she posts more and more entries seeking validation. I read the comments to her post, and felt this overwhelming need to respond to one of them she made. This was my response:

I get the impression people think I should quit to preserve my mental health,
Yes. This is exactly why I’ve suggested it to you. I get the compulsion, the need to write, and I certainly understand angsting over it, and how sometimes that lack of external validation can get anyone down.But you rely on that external validation. In our IM conversations, that external validation seems to be the only thing you’re looking for when you write. Not the needing to get shit down on paper. Not the need to just fucking grab a pen and spill your soul. Never because it’s a compulsive thing to do.

Or at least, that’s how you make it seem. That you latched on to writing as a thing to do because you want something that you’re good at — and here’s a thing that you have a latent talent for. Here’s a way to seek out that validation that I want, here’s a thing that people can and will praise me for. That’s how you came across to me over IM, conversation after conversation. It’s why I had to stop talking to you over IM. Because this need to be constantly told you’re great seems to trump your supposed need to write. Because it seems as though writing is a means to an end, not the end, you know?

Do I want people to think my work is awesome? Oh fuck yes I do. But to hear that I’m great is not what primarily drives me to write. I write because I can. I write because it’s not a choice. I write because this is me. This was what I was meant to do, this is what I want to do, a writer is what I want — need to be.

And I think it may be the same for you, but you have it so deeply buried under this higher need to not be a “loser” (your words, not mine, in IM conversations past), to not be a “failure” that you can’t see the forest for the fucking trees.

I’m not saying that you need these things to be a “true” writer, it’s just — you are so focused on the need to be successful, you crave that external validation so much that it’s a requirement — that it seems to be what truly drives you to write. Not the just getting read. Not the just getting shit down on paper. The success. The fame. The fans.

You’re never gonna get that if you don’t believe in your own shit, first. Questioning it is fine, looking for ways to improve is grand — but you go a step beyond either one of those things. You don’t trust the talents you do have; you have to constantly ask others what they even are. And you try to improve, but you’ve never listened to the advice given you — not on a deeper level. Sure, you listen to surface advice and apply it, but you still write the same themes and the same type of characters and never explore those deeper, darker emotions that you don’t understand.

You’re still afraid to branch out, to push a little deeper, and that fear is what holds you back and you know it. You want to be great? Stop relying on us to tell you that you’re great. Stop writing things that are safe. Put more effort into it. Plan. Don’t try to emulate me and Sarah, be yourself and do your own thing but still give it more than just that surface treatment like you tend to do.

You ARE a good writer. You have the tools to build a great thing. But you have to believe in yourself first and you have to stop (possibly) treating writing as your ticket to success and to solving all your problems, because it won’t.

Just keep fucking writing, okay? And learn to trust it. Learn to let go. To just be with it. Immediate success just ain’t gonna fucking happen — it takes a million parts hard work and perseverance and persistence and CONSTANT DILIGENCE and stop waiting for it to happen and just ACT already, okay?

I think I’m done.

Advertisements